Speculative theories are all over regarding the message Pope Benedict XVI will deliver when he visits the United States next month. Varied degrees of speculation range from a hard lined approach to the enforcement of Catholic social and moral teachings all the way towards eventful pronouncements that will change the direction of the American Church. This author does not believe the message will deviate from the consistent path of moral, social and ethical teachings already reinforced in the Pontiff’s writings (as Cardinal Ratzinger & as Pope) and his vocal proclamations.

Benedict XVI clearly has adopted the role of pastoral and spiritual reconciler in his ministry of Successor to Saint Peter. Observers are always keen to point out the pre-papacy impressions of Benedict XVI as the strict enforcer of the rules of the Holy Office. However, the activities and impressions that might have been Cardinal Ratzinger are far from the reality of the complexity of Benedict XVI. The Pope we are graced to experience today is a living testimony to the Church’s call to constant conversion and renewal in Christ Jesus. While there are matters of church discipline and behavior that need attending, Benedict seemingly has transcended beyond the role of an ecclesial keeper of corrective measures. The Holy Father has always provided an obvious message that his papacy is focused on Catholic reconciliation and rejuvenation throughout the world.

The entire concept of hope…hope in God is the important message of this Pontificate. Benedict I am certain will not travel to the United States and proclaim a Catholic jihad against the United States as an Evil Empire. My suggestion is that he will paternally and pastorally call upon Catholics in the United States to restore the sense of the sacred in their Catholicism, convert from social and moral excesses that are stressed by secularization and seek a true conversion of the heart when Catholics exercise their religious faith. The goal for the papal trip…is radical Catholic conversion through the message of Gospel love. While the announcement of such a topic and intent will most likely never be revealed in such a clear manner, such a direction is Benedict’s hope and goal.

Many in the United States first thought Benedict would be merely a transitional pope. As his pontificate continues to unfold that status is obviously not true. His behind the scenes, scholarly and quiet demeanor are in contrast to the very public persona of John-Paul II. However, Benedict’s true strength is his personal intellect and charismatic charm that infects the minds of everyone he meets. This author suspects the United States will be charmed both intellectually and spiritually by our German born Pope. His deeply seated concern for the orthodoxy and spread of the Gospel message will provide the main topic for his papal tour. However always underlying the message the call to Gospel conversion and the deepening of universal brotherhood will always remain as the dominant theme.

We have seen the proclamation of Spe Salvi, a document that defines the future of hope as the roadmap for this pontificate. Look for Benedict to continue to spread the message of spiritual, moral, diplomatic and social hope as his hallmark message in the United States. Clearly, in the mind of Benedict, hope brings about conversion and conversion brings about global love and harmony.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes on Catholic issues. He writes daily @ http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com

Comments are welcome @ hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

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